An Astronaut's Guide to Becoming a Writer

I recently read An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Col. Chris Hadfield, an actual real-life (retired) astronaut from Canada. I picked it up because I liked the cover. The title seemed interesting. Most importantly, it looked like it would be lightweight, a breezy read on my then-quest to get away from the heavy lifting my mind had been doing for months. I opened the first page, read a sentence, and decided the writing was lovely, and that I would give it a shot. 

Well, two things: I recommend this book wholeheartedly, and there is a concept that resonated with me on a profound level: what would ___ do right now to become ___? 

Early on, Hadfield makes it clear that, at nine years old, he wanted to be an astronaut and knew that (at the same time) nine year olds aren't astronauts. He also knew that playing pretend was not going to do the trick--there is no amount of time spent in cardboard boxes on the lawn to prepare a person for the reality of space. Instead, he asked the question: "What would an astronaut be doing at nine years old?" and did his best to do that. 


I feel like I have becoming-an-astronaut sized dreams. I don't like to think that they are unrealistic, but they are absolutely not the norm. I am someone who, for better or worse, asks for the world. And, in my defense, my wildest dreams have been exceeded time and time again. I grew up fairly poor; financial goals that felt like literal mountains are not only conquered but integrated, taken for granted. I've gotten things published. I'm alive. 

Instead of shrinking my dreams down, I'm trying to take my lead from Hadfield: what would a successful author and playwright be doing at 23? How would they, realistically, spend their hours? Days? Weeks? Questions like that are suddenly becoming incredibly helpful, as opposed to the fantasy (fun but unhelpful) or trying to bring myself back "down to earth" (less fun, also unhelpful). Today, I made some playlists; listened to some music and paid attention to a music video that intrigued me, trying to find what was working; read someone's thesis draft and offered a few suggestions; and wrote this blog. I didn't do everything a writer would do, but I did a lot. I tried. And in ten years, I think (overall) I'll be able to say I spent this year doing things that made me the writer I want to be, breathing in and out, typing away. 

One more thing: Hadfield says throughout the book, many times, that he knew his dream was improbable, but completely impossible if he didn't pursue it with every decision. At 23, that's about all I can do. Here's to dreaming like an astronaut. 

Photo by Thom Schneider on Unsplash